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Animal Rights Advocates in France Intensify Guerrilla Tactics

animal rights organizations L214 Éthique et Animaux

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robert99 robert99 Sweden Posts: 1360
1 28 May 2018

For years, the animal rights movement, scorned by both politicians and the public in the land of foie gras, struggled to gain traction in France, Europe’s biggest producer and consumer of red meat, where one billion animals are slaughtered a year.

“Animal welfare has never really been a crowd-pleasing cause among French politicians, although the public agrees that animals shouldn’t be mistreated,” said Sébastien Arsac, co-founder of one of the country’s most vocal animal rights organizations, L214 Éthique et Animaux.

So when Mr. Arsac and the organization’s other co-founder, Brigitte Gothière, heard Emmanuel Macron, now president, pledge basic safeguards for animal welfare during the 2017 election campaign, they thought they had found an ally. Mr. Macron promised to set up closed-circuit televisions in slaughterhouses and to ban the sale of eggs from caged hens by 2022, two of L214’s top priorities.

But while French lawmakers are debating a law on agriculture and nutrition this week, Mr. Macron’s government has watered down the former campaign promises, dashing L214’s hopes that they could make inroads with the support of political leaders.

So its activists, taking a page from the playbook of similarly minded groups in other countries, including the United States, are stepping up a campaign of guerrilla tactics, hoping to shock the Parliament into amending the government’s proposed law.

They recently released a series of clandestinely recorded videos that showed the lack of hygiene on huge egg farms, and the appalling conditions in which distressed hens are kept, plucking out one another’s feathers and trampling on rotting corpses in their cages.

The inspiration for these videos was Henry Spira, the Belgian-American activist who began championing the cause of animal rights in the United States nearly 50 years ago.

Mr. Spira sought to talk to companies and institutions first, but if that did not work, he would resort to exposés of animal mistreatment in shocking newspaper ads and other public campaigns.

Ms. Gothière and Mr. Arsac said their organization was part of the activist’s legacy (Mr. Spira died in 1998). They founded L214 in 2007, naming it after the article of the French rural code that defines animals as sentient beings and that requires their owners to treat them with respect.

With 50 employees and 2,000 volunteers throughout the country, the organization has tried a mix of working with companies or institutions, and pressuring them through bad publicity when negotiations don’t work.

While broadening public awareness, Ms. Gothière and Mr. Arsac have so far had only modest concrete victories. Their group forced two of France’s 263 slaughterhouses to shut down after it shared a video showing thrashing horses, cows and sheep being slaughtered while semi-conscious.

The public outcry compelled the government to investigate the country’s slaughterhouses and to acknowledge problems in 30 percent of them, including unsafe workplace conditions and a failure to follow slaughtering rules.